Bread is not one of the original foods of humans – those are fruits, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, root vegetables, etc. But bread is one of the original foods of civilization. Agriculture and civilization seem to have grown in tandem, and early agriculture was all abut making bread.
Here’s how it went (at least in my mind):
1. Paleo-person harvests grains. Tries to eat them. They suck. Humans only have one stomach and do not have teeth particularly adapted to grinding starches, so in addition to tasting horrible, they don’t digest very well, either.
2. Paleo-person harvests wild grains. Cooks them. They’re significantly more edible, and he actually gets some nutrition out of them.
3. Paleo-person harvests wild grains. Then grinds them between two rocks, or eventually in a mortar/pestle. Then cooks them. Now were getting somewhere – some decently accessible protein, digestible carbohydrates. Energy. Nice.
4. Paleo-person harvest wild grains, grinds them, combines them with water. Leaves the resultant ‘dough’ in the open air for a bit. Naturally airborne yeast grows on the dough. The dough comes to life. It rises. When cooked, it rises even more. Boom. Bread. It’s calorically dense, doesn’t spoil too fast, easily digestible.
5. Paleo-person thinks that this bread thing is pretty cool. If only they could get more of these grains. Well, they put their big ‘ol cranium to work and so begins agriculture.
6. Agriculture is pretty cool – it provides a greater supply of bread than relying on naturally occurring grains. And it provides a more predictable and steady food supply than hunter-gathering. And it allows people to live in just one place, instead of living nomadically. And it allows a greater population density – the land can support more people in a given area. Paleo-people gather in particularly fertile areas, like the Eastern Mediterranean and the banks of the Nile. They start to build the structures of modern civilization, like specialization, science, social and governance hierarchies, etc. And they make beer. Bread and beer. They’re pretty much the same thing, really.
7. Humans proceed to prosper all over the world, making bread and brewing beer on every corner of the globe.
Why I dig bread:
What kind of bread?
Recently, I’ve been making bread. Homemade bread is about as good as it gets. You can do it in the oven. Or the toaster oven. Or on the campfire. It’s easy. Seriously. More on that later.
I made that!? That was unexpectedly easy! Nice.
Don’t eat that shit that you can ball up and throw across the cafeteria table. That stuff is garbage. Literally. If you have a bag of it at home, don’t say, “Well, since I already have it, I’ll finish this loaf, then I’ll start eating what Luke’s talking about..” No. Throw it out, now. Most bread you buy from the store is total garbage. It doesn’t taste like anything. It has no texture. Those should be merit enough to eliminate it from your life. Additional reasons to ditch cheap, soft store-bought bread is that it is probably contributing to diabetes, probably encouraging excess body fat, and it is certainly nutritionally void.
Cheap, soft store-bought bread is also usually loaded with preservatives. I don’t know much at all about the science of preservatives and their interaction with human metabolism. Science has probably looked pretty closely at preservatives and deemed them safe enough. However, here's what I do know: Preservatives work by slowing or prohibiting cellular processes – mold and bacteria cells cannot grow and reproduce on the bread, even as it sits on your room temperature counter for 6 weeks. Guess what? You’re made of cells, too. Intuitively, it seems silly to be eating a lot of substances that inhibit or prohibit cellular processes.
Like I said, I have no actual knowledge in the area of preservatives and their effects on metabolism. Preservatives probably allow nutritious food to get to areas of the world that would otherwise be nutrient deprived. But you are fortunate to live in 21st-century-developed-world abundance. Fresh food, and fresh bread, is readily available, convenient and affordable.
This stuff is garbage. Feed it to Oscar.
There are 3 general options that are acceptable. Most people should eat less bread, so what you do eat, make it good stuff with regards to nutrition and taste.
Ezekiel. Killer Dave's. These are the best store bought choices, hands down.
Final note about bread selection: Just because it's from a bakery doesn't mean it's a good choice. French baguettes from the hometown bakery probably taste better than baguettes from Kroger, but they're still just nutritionally void french bread - i.e. dessert.
When should you eat bread?
You should eat bread all of the time if you’re extremely poor, in the bible, or your saddle bag only contains a block of cheese and hard loaf of bread.
Less of the time, if you’re like the rest of us.
Bread is high in calories. It is often low in fiber. It is often low in protein and fat. Therefore, it’s not going to be particularly satiating or sustaining. If you’re trying to lose weight, probably skip the bread most of the time. Eat an apple. Or eat twice as much of what you would usually put on/in the bread.
Bread is going to be better for you in the morning (your body has a less detrimental reaction to simple carbohydrates in the morning, compared to later in the day), before/during/after workouts, or if you need to pack in easy calories.
This is a serious rabbit-hole, and contentious as well, but I’ll bring it up anyway - some research findings support the idea that bread (and any high glycemic food) is going to be relatively less detrimental to a person with low body fat, and relatively more detrimental to a person with high body fat. One reason for this could be that high body fat reduces the efficacy of insulin, so the body needs to release additional insulin to stabilize blood glucose. Insulin encourages body-fat storage, in addition to other more complicated undesirable effects. So, after eating bread, a person with high body fat, compared to a person with lower body fat, is releasing a larger insulin dose (undesirable in-of-itself), which encourages more of the bread’s calories to be stored as body fat. Because of genetics, because of lifestyle, because of epigenetics, because of metabolic state, bread is going to be a great choice for certain people at certain times, and a not so great choice for other people and at other times.
Energy balance is the most important factor gaining or losing body mass. The first law of thermodynamics cannot be modified: ‘Storage = Intake – Expenditure’. What you eat obviously affects the ‘caloric intake’ side of the balance. Not so obvious and more contentious, is what I indirectly stated in the previous paragraph – that what you eat, and your metabolic state, can also affect the ‘caloric expenditure’ side of the balance.
Alright. I’m done with that, before I go too far down the rabbit-hole. Research more yourself, if interested, and draw your own conclusions. Try to read the actual studies (just the abstract is fine), not some hearsay from joebigbiceps.com.
I don’t want to encourage anyone to skip on bread completely. I’m an athlete, and I eat a lot of it – in the morning, before workouts, right after workouts. And I’m not going to completely abstain from it, ever. Good bread is one of the simple joys of life. With soup, salad, with some jam or butter, a good piece of bread is absolutely first-rate. But maybe view it like dessert or sweets, because, nutritionally, it’s not really that different. Enjoy it, don’t have a sandwich for lunch every single workday, only eat the good stuff.
Thanks for reading! That was a contentious one, maybe. Oh well. Last post was on coffee. That was an agreeable one. Maybe next post will be on the merits of dark chocolate (yay?). Or the cons of dark chocolate (boo?). Or maybe booze. Yeah, alcohol! As the Manhattan Expert, at least I would find it interesting…